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GenAI guidance – Bath Spa University

How to use gen AI as a student

Guidance for students on the use of generative AI

What is Generative AI?  

Generative AI uses artificial intelligence to complete tasks that normally require human cognition. For example, AI writing tools such as ChatGPT and Claude produce text in response to user prompts or questions. This is Generative AI, or GenAI for short.  

Recently, these tools have become much more popular, and universities have responded in a range of ways. Some have banned the use of GenAI outright, while others are taking a more case-by-case approach. 

At Bath Spa, your lecturers are free to specify the extent to which you may use AI in your work and will make this clear in your assessment guidelines. 

Pros and cons of using AI at university

Using GenAI can have many benefits and can be particularly helpful in the brainstorming and planning stages of writing. You can ask tools such as ChatGPT and Claude for topic suggestions, feedback on ideas, or help writing emails.   

It's also important to remember that this technology has several drawbacks: 

  • It can reflect cultural biases in its training data 
  • There are concerns around data privacy 
  • The text generated may plagiarise data that it was trained on 
  • It can lead to superficial engagement with the material. 

Most importantly, GenAI can invent facts that seem plausible (‘hallucinations’). You must check everything it says with a reputable source, such as the library, academic journals, and textbooks.  

Tips for using GenAI as a student

Think about your privacy 

Always be mindful of the information you share online, including with AI platforms. Make sure you don’t share personal, sensitive, or confidential details. You can also opt out of data sharing.  

Be specific 

ChatGPT allows you to add custom instructions. It can be helpful to add something like "I would like ChatGPT to not write or rewrite documents for me. I would like it to make suggestions and give feedback without rewriting my words". This instruction will make it much easier to use without plagiarising texts.  

Check your sources 

GenAI currently often invents facts, so it's important to cross-check everything it says. Think of GenAI as a bit like Wikipedia – it's a helpful starting point, but your citations should come from the sources you've used to check those facts.   

Consider how much text to use

An AI writing generator might produce phrases that you think would translate well to your writing – but how much of these should you use? 

We think it's reasonable to base the extent to which you can copy and paste from a tool such as ChatGPT on how much is acceptable to copy and paste from a source such as the Manchester Academic Phrasebank, which is widely used in academic circles. This means that you can copy word-for-word, without referencing, sentence fragments that don't contain facts. These should be no more than 5-8 words long, and you should aim to use a maximum of 3 of these per 150-word paragraph

Get help with planning 

GenAI can be most helpful in the planning stages of your work. As long as your lecturer hasn't stated that you mustn't use AI at all, you can ask it to help you write an outline. 

The more information you add to your prompts, the better and more specific the responses you receive will be. Rather than asking it for a list of topic ideas, you could provide a list of topics that you plan to cover and ask it for feedback or further suggestions.    

AI tools can also generate images and audio which might serve as starting points for projects. As in many subjects, art, design, film and media tutors value creativity and originality, so you should check your lecturers' specific recommendations for individual assignments.  

Ask for feedback 

You can also ask GenAI for feedback on what you've written, and the more specific you can be the better. For example, you could give it a section of your writing and ask questions such as:  

  • ‘I often get feedback on XXX, what feedback on XXX would you give me for this piece of writing?’
  • ‘How strong is my argument?’   
  • ‘Do I have enough evidence?’  
  • ‘Do my ideas come across clearly?’  
  • ‘How good are my topic sentences?’  
  • ‘How good are my linking sentences?’   

Remember that GenAI hasn’t studied your subject, at your university, with your lecturers. Use your own judgement and critical thinking skills to assess any recommendations it makes.  

Get help with your academic reading 

You can cut and paste a section of text into a Generative AI platform and ask for a summary to help you understand the original. It's important to look at the original at the same time, to make sure that you agree with the summary.  

Include references and an appendix 

We recommend that you don’t copy and paste large portions of text. However, if you choose to do so, it's important to cite them correctly as outlined in Cite them Right

You'll also need to add an appendix to the end of your assignment that states how you've used GenAI in your work.  

Academic integrity and GenAI 

You must not directly copy larger chunks of text that have been produced for you by AI, as this will count as ‘passing off the work of another as your own’ and is against our academic integrity policy

Can the University detect AI-generated writing? 

At Bath Spa we have no current plans to use AI detection tools; however, the writing produced by GenAI can often be identified by its bland, repetitive, and inaccurate nature. 

Lecturers will also be looking for work that's beyond your current capability, or expressed in a way that's clearly different to your normal style. 

If your lecturer suspects that your assignment contains larger sections that have been pasted from AI, they'll first have an informal chat with you to find out more about how you produced your work. 

This means you'll need to be able to discuss and show understanding of the concepts and evidence that you've presented in your essay.   

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